Rob Kinnan
January 1, 2000

Step By Step

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P76370_large 1999_Ford_Mustang_Cobra Front_Passenger_Side
Kenny Brown 289 Cobra RS (White) and Kenny Brown Cobra S (Red).
P76371_large 1999_Ford_Mustang_Cobra Engine
Looks like your typical Cobra with a blower, right? But this is the 289 RS motor, grunting out roughly 450 hp. Also notice the KB strut tower brace and camber plates.
P76372_large 1999_Ford_Mustang_Cobra Wheel
Standard on the RS and optional on the S are these bitchin’ wheels and Brembo brakes. The wheels are made for Kenny Brown by Forgeline, and are sized 17x9.5 in front and 17x11 in back.
P76373_large 1999_Ford_Mustang_Cobra Interior
Optional Recaros come with Kenny Brown stitching and Schroth belts.
P76374_large 1999_Ford_Mustang_Cobra Interior_Rear_View
The rear seats get the logo treatment, as well.
P76375_large 1999_Ford_Mustang_Cobra Gas_Tank
The red Cobra S we drove had an optional fuel cell in place of the stock gas tank. You can also see the TracKit Plus panhard bar, which works equally well in drag and road racing.
P76376_large 1999_Ford_Mustang_Cobra 3rd_Brake_light

One of the big reasons for the popularity of the 5.0 Mustang is that it's easy to work on. Most bolt-on parts are fairly easy for beginners to install and they provide incredible performance gains. However, pop the hood on a new Mustang--GT or Cobra, take your pick--and that easy-to-work-on persona gets thrown out the window. Those engine compartments are tight, man, and even a lot of seasoned 5.0 wrench-turners get scared at the thought of tearing into a mod motor. It's much easier to make a phone call and write a check than get greasy, and for the folks who can afford to do that, the aftermarket tuner is a godsend.

One of the premier Mustang tuners is Kenny Brown Performance in Indianapolis, Indiana. If you've been messing with Mustangs for any time at all, you know Kenny Brown. He's been heavily into racing Mustangs for more than a decade (and that's after a prior decade of serious road racing). He creates everything from high-performance Mustang suspension parts, to complete cars. Both his parts and his complete cars are legendary, for their quality and brutish performance, in the 5.0 Mustang world. It's no surprise, then, that he's turned his attention to the present and future Mustangs--the mod motor cars.

Here we present two examples of Brown's modified Cobras--the S and the double-wicked 289 RS. Both will scare you with straight-line speed and cornering limits that Corvette owners can only dream of, and you can buy 'em at a competitive price. Let's start with the Cobra S.

Kenny Brown transforms a stock Cobra to a Cobra S by first concentrating on what he does best, the suspension. The Level 4 Power Suspension System consists of a Chassis Support Kit (strut tower brace, K-member brace, and Extreme Subs subframe connectors), stiffer springs; Koni or Bilstein shocks and struts; urethane bushings; the TracKit Plus rear panhard bar; and Caster Plus caster plates. Putting the grip to the road, and looking damn good doing it, is a set of 17-inch wheels and Firestone SZ50 tires (275/40 front, 255/45 rear), and the stock Cobra brakes are upgraded with carbon kevlar pads for more grab.

Once the chassis is tuned to scream, attention turns to the four-cammer. The big performance enhancement comes via a Vortech supercharger and a better exhaust system. For the sake of price and durability, the engine is otherwise stock, yet still cranks 381 hp to the rear wheels. That means the motor's making in the neighborhood of 420 at the crank. That'll get your attention! As with any properly modified Mustang, the rear gears are swapped, for 3.73s in this case, and the sloppy stock shifter is tossed for a firmer, close-ratio unit. Last are the Kenny Brown decals and serial number, and even a Kenny Brown "Big Dogs Club" T-shirt.

All this stuff can, of course, be purchased separately if you want to install it yourself. There are many further upgrades and options to choose from, but the base S package adds $15,950 to the price of a Cobra. So if you don't already have a car, you're looking at a sticker of about $43,000. That might seem high to those of us accustomed to $20,000 Mustangs, but then no $20,000 stock Mustang can run 12.90s at 109, either. And don't even think of challenging a Kenny Brown car in the twisties, 'cause you'll lose.

The red car you see here is outfitted with a few options above the basic S package: KB Racing wheels and wider 'Stones; massive Brembo brakes; comfy, supportive Recaro leather seats; Schroth harnesses; a Super Street cage with chrome door bars; and A-pillar- mounted boost and fuel pressure gauges. Again, you can upgrade to your heart's content. Every option adds some dinero to the bottom line, but allows you to customize the car however you want it.

Beyond the S is the gnarly 450 hp 289 Cobra RS. Ah yes, the return of the 289. The RS has all the equipment that the Cobra S has, including much more work under the hood and more standard hardware in the chassis. If you were to check every option on the Cobra S order form, you'd end up with an RS. At an estimated price of $58,500, the RS is in the price-league of such exotics as the Viper, Porsche 911, Lotus Esprit Turbo, and Acura NSX, so you'd better be a player. Its performance will dust all but the Viper--and depending on who's driving, it'll probably take the Viper as well.

What do you get for the extra green? The 4.6 DOHC engine gets torn down and bored to the romantic 289 ci. Forged pistons, ARP studs and bolts, new rings and bearings, a high-volume oil pump, a windage tray, and a complete balancing are included. Once assembled, an oil cooler, remote oil filter, SVO ceramic headers, and the Vortech are bolted on. Kenny Brown does a before and after dyno pull to show the improvement. In this configuration, the Dynojet rollers show 412 hp, or about 450 hp at the motor. Standard RS suspension upgrades from the Cobra S include Brembo brakes, KB/Forgeline wheels, and Brown's exclusive Fixed-Strut front suspension geometry.

We had an afternoon to drive this car, and we're here to tell you it flat gets with the program. Indy was hot that day, so we had the windows up and the a/c cranked, and it still destroyed the tires in Third gear. Speed limits are but a distant memory without even trying, and the cornering grip is so great we couldn't even get close to it on the city streets. We were begging for a day at the race track, but our schedule would'nt permit. Damn! That also means that we can't provide any quarter-mile elapsed times, but it feels like a solid mid-12-second car. Considering that it has 25 more horsepower than the Cobra S, and that car runs 12.90s, our seat-of-the-pants guesstimate is probably pretty close. On street tires, though, forget about it.

As brutal as the 289 Cobra RS is when you're on it, it's remarkably docile and comfortable the rest of the time. Kenny Brown doesn't get stupid with spring rates and shock valving, so the car doesn't ride like a buckboard. It's stiff, yeah, but not as harsh as many other lowered Mustangs we've driven. Overall, it's a very nice balance between extreme performance car and daily driver. If you can afford it, it sure beats the hell out of banging your knuckles in the driveway.